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Assistant Professor Dave Noack explains the format of the Opportunity Quest entrepreneurial competition Jan. 23 at the Goddard School of Business. (Photo by Timothy Potter / The Signpost)

Ten students in Weber State’s Opportunity Quest Entrepreneur competition pitched their business ideas to an expert panel of judges Friday with the goal of winning cash to fund their respective businesses.

Countless hours of engineering, designing and strategic planning culminated in a 10-minute presentation for each, with five minutes of questions afterwards.

Although the time and effort before the competition was crucial, the pitch to the judges was the true do-or-die moment.

The importance of the 10-minute pitch and five-minute question session was emphasized by Assistant Professor Dave Noack, staff coordinator of the competition.

“They can win or lose that competition just in that question and answer, because that’s when the judges can really clarify something that they weren’t clear about during the presentation,” he said.

Noack, who has competed in his fair share of venture competitions, reflected on his own experience.

“I could plan all I wanted in the classroom, but actually going out in front of real judges and real investors is when I really took my idea, my concept, to another level.”

The $5,000 first place prize went to Brighter House Electric, a company that provides efficient lighting solutions for households and businesses.

Brandon Saxton, founder of Brighter House Electric, plans to use the $5,000 to cover inventory expenses, which will help the business grow, he said.

The competition helped him get things going, he said.

“The whole process has been a gradual step-by-step of how to take the idea and turn it into a business,” Saxton said. “The Opportunity Quest competition validates your idea, gives you seed funding so you can grow the business and start making money.”

Other products ranged from an online marketing service that funds Filipino entrepreneurs to cut-rate athletic court painting machines.

Brian Bankhead, winner of the third place $2,000 prize, is the creator of Cinebuds, an online movie review site. It varies from larger movie websites such as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes in that “instead of giving you a generic answer, it matches you up with critics and users who most agree with you, so it’s more personalized,” Bankhead said.

Even if students did not get the prize they had hoped for, they still gained valuable feedback from the competition, their entrepreneur classes, various workshops and the experienced panel of judges.

Bankhead explained just how valuable the feedback was to him.

“They’ve been successful, and they’ve been successful in this area. So I had a certain idea of how I was going to market this plan, but they had different ideas that were new and innovative that I had not even thought of,” Bankhead said.

Braxton added, “It gives you feedback to where you understand areas where you may have problems and areas where you can grow. It tells you how to grow.”

Zach Thurston, student coordinator of the competition, outlined a plan to entrepreneurs at Weber State who may not have collected a cash prize — or who may not have entered the competition at all — but still want to pursue their business plan.

“Hopefully, the next step is enrolling in our (entrepreneur) minor and then start growing their business,” Thurston said. “Opportunity Quest is allowing them … to establish those relationships with key partners to get their business up and running.”

The minor, relatively new to Weber State, has already helped students turn their business ideas into plans.

Chandler Copenhaver, founder and CEO of Kai-Shi Character Development and a recent graduate of the program, said that the minor gave his business guidance, structure and motivation.

“Having an environment that nurtured that desire and helped you with the day to day practical stuff was really helpful,” he said.

Alan Hall, an experienced entrepreneur, investor and chairman of WSU’s board of trustees, summarized why it is important to WSU to have programs like Opportunity Quest.

“Universities ought to be here to serve the student population with whatever their needs are for academic experience and then external experience as well,” he said, “so the university should be here to provide these sorts of wonderful opportunities for students.”

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